Labour economics seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets for wage labour. Labour is a commodity that is supplied by labourers in exchange for a wage paid by demanding firms. Because these labourers exist as parts of a social, institutional, or political system, labour economics is often regarded as a sociology or political science.
The examples and perspective in this article or section might have an extensive bias or disproportional coverage towards one or more specific regions. (January 2014)
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Labour markets or job markets function through the interaction of workers and employers. Labour economics looks at the suppliers of labour services (workers) and the demanders of labour services (employers), and attempts to understand the resulting pattern of wages, employment, and income. These patterns exist because each individual in the market is presumed to make rational choices based on the information that they know regarding wage, desire to provide labour, and desire for leisure. Labour markets are normally geographically bounded, but the rise of the internet has brought about a 'planetary labour market' in some sectors.
Labour is a measure of the work done by human beings. It is conventionally contrasted with other factors of production, such as land and capital. Some theories focus on human capital, or entrepreneurship, (which refers to the skills that workers possess and not necessarily the actual work that they produce). Labour is unique to study because it is a special type of good that cannot be separated from the owner (i.e. the work cannot be separated from the person who does it). A labour market is also different from other markets in that workers are the suppliers and firms are the demanders.